There are five main types of contraception.
What Is Long-Acting Reversible Contraception?
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) is considered the most effective form of reversible contraception. These types provide long-term pregnancy prevention with little effort on the part of the patient.
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs) (also called an intrauterine system, or IUS) are small, T-shaped devices inserted into the uterus by a health care provider. IUDs remain in place and prevent pregnancy for years. The device can be replaced when the contraceptive properties expire, or when the woman no longer wishes to use contraception.
- Hormonal IUDs release the female hormone progestin (levonorgestrel) into the uterus, causing thickening of the cervical mucus which prevents sperm from reaching or fertilizing the egg, thinning the uterine lining, and possibly preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs.
- Copper IUDs prevent sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg, and it can prevent an egg from attaching in the uterus. If an egg does become fertilized, the device can prevent it from implanting into the uterine lining.
- Implants are implantable rods surgically inserted by a physician under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. The rods release a form of the female hormone progestin and may remain in place for up to 5 years.
What Are Hormonal Methods of Birth Control?
- Short-acting hormonal methods
- Injectable birth control uses the female hormone progestin administered in the arm or buttocks once every 3 months
- Progestin-only pills (POPs) are taken orally once daily, usually at the same time of day
- Combined hormonal methods contain a combination of the female hormones estrogen and progestin
- Combined oral contraceptives (also called COCs or "the pill") are taken orally once daily, usually at the same time each day
- Contraceptive patches are applied to the skin on the lower abdomen, buttocks, outer arm, or upper body and release hormones through the skin into the bloodstream. A new patch is applied once a week for 3 weeks, and no patch is worn the fourth week so menstruation can occur.
- A vaginal ring is a thin, flexible, ring that measures approximately 2 inches in diameter that is inserted into the vagina. It continually releases a combination of ethinyl estradiol and a progestin for 3 weeks, and is removed for the fourth week, after which a new ring is inserted.
What Are Barrier Methods of Contraception?
Barrier methods prevent sperm from entering the uterus. They are removable and are a good option for women who are unable to use hormonal methods of contraception.
Barrier methods that do not require a health care provider visit include
- Male condoms, which cover the penis to collect and prevent sperm from entering the woman's body. They are single-use and generally made of latex or polyurethane. A natural alternative is lambskin.
- Female condoms are thin, flexible plastic single-use pouches inserted into a woman's vagina before intercourse to prevent sperm from entering the uterus.
- Contraceptive sponges are disposable, soft, spermicide-filled foam sponges inserted into the vagina before intercourse to help block sperm from entering the uterus. The spermicide also kills sperm cells. The sponge should be left in place for at least 6 hours following intercourse and removed within 30 hours after intercourse.
- Spermicides kill sperm cells and may be used alone or in combination with a diaphragm or cervical cap. The most common spermicidal agent is nonoxynol-9 (N-9) available in foam, jelly, cream, suppository, and film forms. Spermicides are inserted into the vagina no more than 30 minutes prior to intercourse and left in place 6 to 8 hours after intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
Barrier methods that require a health care provider visit include the following:
- Diaphragms are shallow, flexible cups made of latex or soft rubber inserted into the vagina before intercourse, blocking sperm from entering the uterus. A spermicide should be used with a diaphragm. Diaphragms should remain in place for 6 to 8 hours after intercourse to prevent pregnancy, but removed within 24 hours. Diaphragms must be properly fitted to work correctly.
- Cervical caps are similar to diaphragms but are smaller and more rigid.
- Emergency contraception is intended for use after unprotected intercourse or if a condom breaks.
- Copper IUDs can be inserted within 5 days (120 hours) of unprotected intercourse and is a highly effective method of contraception for as long as the device remains in place.
- Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are hormonal pills, taken either as a single dose or two doses 12 hours apart, used in the event of unprotected intercourse. They should be taken as soon as possible after semen exposure and are not intended to be used as a regular method of contraception.
What Is Surgical Sterilization?
Sterilization is a surgical procedure that is a permanent form of birth control. Sterilization either prevents a woman from getting pregnant or prevents a man from releasing sperm.
- A sterilization implant is a nonsurgical method for permanently blocking the fallopian tubes in women. After implantation scar tissue forms around the inserts and blocks the fallopian tubes so sperm cannot reach an egg.
- Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure performed on women in which a doctor cuts, ties, or seals the fallopian tubes so sperm cannot reach an egg to fertilize it, and an egg cannot reach the uterus.
- Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus making pregnancy impossible. It is usually performed for reasons other than contraception.
- Vasectomy is a surgical procedure performed on men that cuts, closes, or blocks the vas deferens, so sperm cannot leave the testes and cannot reach the egg.
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